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GOP backs Rep. Zeldin for governor, but primary looms

 Andrew Giuliani's father, Rudy, signs his petition for governor at the N.Y. GOP convention March 1, 2022.
Karen DeWitt
Andrew Giuliani's father, Rudy, signs his petition for governor at the N.Y. GOP convention March 1, 2022.

New York Republicans nominated Long Island Congressman Lee Zeldin as their candidate for governor Monday with 85% of the delegates' vote. But he faces a primary challenge from other candidates, including Rob Astorino, Harry Wilson, and Andrew Giuliani, the son of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who upstaged the convention when he brought his father with him.

Zeldin iss the GOP’s choice to face Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul, who is seeking election to the post she filled when former Governor Andrew Cuomo resigned in a sexual harassment scandal. Zeldin told the delegates that he is on a “rescue mission” to save New York state.

“All New Yorkers are hitting their breaking point right now and they are desperate for us to be successful in this efforts to restore balance in Albany,” Zeldin said. “To fire Kathy Hochul and Brian Benjamin.”

Zeldin says as governor he’d undo recent changes to the state’s bail laws that he and other critics say is linked to the state’s rising crime rates. He also says he’d fight for parents’ rights to steer education policies that affect their children.

But Zeldin first faces primary challenges. Independent businessman Harry Wilson entered the race a week ago and has already begun an aggressive advertising campaign. He says he decided to enter the race because he’s concerned that the state’s policies will adversely affect his children.

“I cannot shake the dark fear that their present is better than their future, and I refuse to accept that,” Wilson said. “I will not sit idly by while career politicians destroy our state.”

Wilson received some support from delegates, but not enough to win an automatic place on the ballot, and will now petition for the right to be included. He’s said he’ll spend millions of dollars of his own personal wealth on the campaign.

Andrew Giuliani will also be collecting signatures to get on the primary ballot.

His father, former New York City mayor and advisor to former President Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, accompanied his son, and was the second person to sign the petition.

Giuliani says his son “has what it takes” to become governor, and he condemned GOP leaders for not giving his son 25% of the delegates’ votes to avoid the petitioning process, a courtesy often extended to challengers in the past.

“I don’t think a professional politician can beat her,” Giuliani said, referring to Governor Hochul. “What they are doing with this dictated convention is very damaging.”

“They are the elite,” He continued.

The Giulianis say they met with Trump as recently as last week, but would not speculate on whether the former president might endorse Andrew Giuliani’s candidacy, saying they are OK with him being “neutral.”

Former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2014, will also be petitioning to be on the primary ballot.

“I stand before you today as the most viable general election candidate,” said Astorino. “Someone who can rally the base while also appealing to Democrats and independents. No one else can do that.”

Astorino argues that he can help win in bluer suburbs like his home county.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.
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